A $500,000 reward for information regarding missing backpacker Theo Hayez has been announced by the NSW Government, as his family urges anyone who could help to come forward.
The 18-year-old was last seen on May 31, 2019, after he was ejected from the Cheeky Monkey’s bar in Byron Bay at 11pm.
Police were alerted to the Belgian’s disappearance a week later after he didn’t return to his hostel and couldn’t be contacted.
Despite police conducting an extensive air, sea and land search with the help of local volunteers, Theo is still missing three years later.
NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Police Paul Toole said he hoped the significant reward would encourage anyone who knew what happened to Theo to contact authorities.
“Theo was a young man who had his entire life ahead of him and his family cannot rest until they know what happened to him,” Mr Toole said on Wednesday.
“The pain of losing a loved one is bad enough, but the mystery surrounding this case only adds to that pain.
Mr Toole urged anyone who knows or thinks of anything relevant to finding Theo to phone Crime Stoppers, “no matter how small” their tip might be.
“Police investigating this case need our help to provide that crucial piece of the puzzle that can bring some comfort to the family and friends of Theo,” he said.
— NSW Police Force (@nswpolice) February 22, 2022
Theo’s family also released a statement saying they hoped the reward would “motivate” people to speak out.
“We are very grateful to the NSW Police and NSW Government for their approval of this reward for information that can help understand what happened to Theo on the night of May 31, 2019, in Byron Bay,’ they said.
“Our hope with the reward is to reach out to more people as well as motivate people to talk to authorities and overcome any barriers they might have doing so.
“$500,000 can change someone’s life. Please, if you have any information that can help us, come forward now. Don’t wait any longer.”
Theo was last seen on CCTV from the bar, with Google data showing he then looked up the route back to his hostel but walked in the opposite direction instead.
Police have a working theory that the backpacker attempted to climb cliffs at Cosy Corner beach, but fell and was swept out to sea.
A hat he was wearing has since been found on the route he walked.
However, his family believe that behaviour is uncharacteristic of Theo and think that someone else may be involved.
“A key question we are seeking to address is whether he was with someone on the night of May 31, 2019, which we strongly believe to be the case,” Theo’s father, Laurent Hayez, said.
The matter was referred to the NSW Coroner, and an inquest is currently underway in the Coroner’s Court.
Image: Laurent Hayez (Facebook)
This article first appeared on OverSixty.